HomeNewsArticle Display

Flying the RPA mission

Capt. Jonathan, a 432nd Wing pilot, left, and Staff Sgt. Matthew, a 432nd WG sensor operator, fly a training mission Oct. 13, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen)

Capt. Jonathan, a 432nd Wing pilot, left, and Staff Sgt. Matthew, a 432nd WG sensor operator, fly a training mission Oct. 13, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen)

Staff Sgt. Matthew, 432nd Wing sensor operator flies a training mission Oct. 13, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The 432nd Wing set a record of weapon strikes in July of 2015, and then again in August helping countless U.S. and coalition forces return home to their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen/released)

Staff Sgt. Matthew, a 432nd Wing sensor operator, flies a training mission Oct. 13, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen)

Airman 1st Class Ashley, 432nd Aircraft Communications Maintenance Squadron radio frequencies transmission technician checks a control monitor and alarm computer for discrepancies  Aug. 19, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The ACMS is responsible for maintaining all communications equipment needed to fly a remotely piloted aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen/Released)

Airman 1st Class Ashley, a 432nd Aircraft Communications Maintenance Squadron radio frequencies transmission technician, checks a control monitor and alarm computer for discrepancies Aug. 19, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The squadron is responsible for maintaining all communications equipment needed to fly a remotely piloted aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen)

An MQ- Reaper remotely piloted aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, Nev., June 25, 2015. The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne/Not Reviewed)

An MQ- Reaper remotely piloted aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, Nev., June 25, 2015. The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cory D. Payne)

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada (AFNS) -- The aircraft is ready to fly, the ground control stations are up and running, and the crews have been briefed. Now it’s time to fly the remotely piloted aircraft.

The pilot, sensor operator, and mission intelligence coordinator step into the control station to prepare for flight, but they’re not alone; they are joined by other Airmen, each in their respective locations.

With the engines whirring up to speed, the launch and recovery element crew begins launch procedures for aircraft takeoff from the area of responsibility downrange.

"The launch and recovery element is responsible for conducting the launches and recoveries of the MQ-1B and MQ-9 aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Kory, the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing NCO in charge of the commander’s action group. “The LRE is located within range for C-band line-of-sight to conduct its operations in the traffic pattern, terminal area, and on the airfield. The LRE is responsible to power-up the aircraft Ku-band satellite terminal and hand the aircraft over to the mission control element crew.”

Aided by line-of-sight ground data terminals downrange, which are maintained by the 432nd Aircraft Communications Maintenance Squadron, the LRE crew launches the aircraft and climbs to an altitude where they can hand control of the aircraft off to the mission control element located stateside, via satellite links.

“During the hand off of the aircraft, ACMS maintainers in the (ground control station) enable and ensure a good Ku link to the MCE crews,” said Senior Airman Robert, a 432nd ACMS training monitor.

After the hand-off, the mission control element crew will fly the aircraft and carry out the mission, in of the specified mission areas: intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); close-air support (CAS); air interdiction; combat search and rescue; or strike coordination and reconnaissance.

“RPAs allow us to not only conduct ISR and CAS, but also buddy lase for other assets, perform convoy and raid overwatch and even provide humanitarian support,” said Maj. Patrick, the 432nd Wing chief of combat plans. “The versatility of these aircraft give the supported commander a variety of options.”

While the pilot is busy flying the aircraft and the sensor operator is operating the multi-spectral targeting system (MTS ball), the mission coordinator is also engaged by providing real-time intelligence.

“They’re looking for changes in terrain, weather, threats, and weapons systems because intelligence personnel can provide everything real time to the pilot and sensor (MTS ball),” said Senior Airman Aaron, a 432nd WG/432nd AEW intelligence evaluator.

Also supporting the crew is the distributed ground system, a group of imagery analysts who watch the live feed coming from the aircraft. They are able to determine the difference between a woman holding a child and a man holding a gun on zoomed-in images.

Mission tasks are given by the air operations centers under the respective combatant commands. The air operations center determines where the aircraft will go, what mission is needed, and also give orders and guidance should the need for change occur.

The wing operations center (WOC) acts as a central hub for critical mission support to the aircrew to accomplish the tasking orders from an air operations center.

“The main job of the WOC is to take care of the guys flying the mission to ensure mission success,” said Maj. Steven, the 432nd WG/432nd AEW WOC deputy director. “In the WOC we’re making sure crews are available, the weather is good, and planes can take off and fly with no problems, basically we’re monitoring all the factors so the mission can go smoothly.”

During the mission, if a strike is needed, a joint terminal attack controller can radio an RPA for help to coordinate an attack on enemy forces.

"Partnering two different capabilities from the air and ground provides us with the ability to develop patterns of life for targets," said a JTAC assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command. "If and when the time comes to strike, we can do so with accuracy. This is instrumental in moving to a safer military for future conflicts. Not to mention, having the RPAs provide overwatch from the sky makes us feel safer as well."

Supporting troops on the ground has been a frequent use for the RPA community in recent years. In some instances, RPAs are able to track high-value targets at night using an invisible infrared laser, which helps designate and illuminate targets for ground forces.

If the need for a strike arises, the crew is prepared at a moment’s notice with precision accuracy.

Not only can RPAs strike static targets, but also because of the high loitering time, moving targets as well.

Because a combat air patrol is flown on a continuous basis, revolving shifts of Airmen in every career filed rotate throughout the CAP before the plane is landed and another one takes its place.

After the mission is completed and the plane is ready to land, the mission control element will fly back to base, handing the aircraft back to the launch and recovery crew for landing.

(Editor’s note: The last names in this story have been removed for security reasons.)

Engage

Twitter
.@POTUS to #Airmen during his visit to @RAFMildenhall: "You’re the best of our country. Less than 1% of Americans… https://t.co/VlmUkvizpY
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: High energy lasers kill one target at a time, & high powered microwaves can kill groups or swarms, which is one reason that TH…
Twitter
Check out the latest #AirForce Week in Photos! Which one is your favorite? See the rest at https://t.co/PUTukgX3Qe https://t.co/bWyy06fZ3k
Twitter
RT @AFGlobalStrike: 10 cadets and midshipmen from the @WestPoint_USMA, the @NavalAcademy and the @AF_Academy visited @90thMissileWing as pa…
Twitter
#ABMS will deliver decision superiority to the @usairforce & @SpaceForceDoD. This is all-domain command and contr… https://t.co/52J0YQEQhn
Twitter
The 2-week training will focus on @GenCQBrownJr's #AccelerateChange Action Order C: Competition by dissecting the g… https://t.co/J97obvYz10
Twitter
Building on women’s hair updates announced in February 2021, beginning June 25 when hair is secured behind the head… https://t.co/kjocdaU8Co
Twitter
“When you look at the numbers, 500,000 is a lot of [#COVID19] vaccinations. That reflects every #Soldier and… https://t.co/0hDKneUwUU
Twitter
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is sponsoring a research project with the @WitchitaState's National Inst… https://t.co/r1SZzmLUGo
Twitter
.@NellisAFB recently hosted an #AirForce Weapons School Integration exercise that taught graduate-level instructor… https://t.co/sdRcG9Tqle
Twitter
Industry and government operators, engineers, and test professionals assessed the ability to do medical evacuation,… https://t.co/GosqQbx3Ac
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: As part of the @UTNationalGuard's state partnership with Morocco, @UtahAirGuard Airmen are taking part in African Lion 21…
Twitter
“This office is the first organization that will stand-up from an enterprise-wide perspective to address digital ne… https://t.co/94P7CNFxGj
Twitter
"Multi-capable #Airmen is a series of training events designed to engage Airmen in developing a combat skillset out… https://t.co/7b4VFMb9cm
Twitter
"I'm probably not the first to be qualified, but the first to have the opportunity." @GenCQBrownJr sat down with… https://t.co/vh14QdB6sp
Twitter
#CitizenAirmen from the 30th Aerial Port Squadron & @AFRC_433, loaded supplies onto a C-5 Galaxy, to deliver suppli… https://t.co/MDSVEtQbZm
Twitter
.@59_MDW medics assisted a hospital in #Honduras during Exercise Resolute Sentinel 21, where they performed life-ch… https://t.co/DRGyg4NOhL
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: A/SecAF Roth at today's SAC-D hearing: "Our nation’s competitive strategic advantage relies on air and space superiority…
Twitter
To maintain open lines of communication with #AirForce allies and African partners, CMSgt Brion Blais, @HQUSAFEAFAFhttps://t.co/4nGOtWJnLp
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,346,446
Follow Us